Van Jones defended; Dana Milbank attacked

Last week we told you about the feedback we received regarding the use of the word “militant” after blogger Glenn Greenwald encouraged readers to write to the ombudsman to protest The Post’s use of the term in headlines and articles about people killed by U.S. drone strikes.

This week, after Dana Milbank wrote a column about a recent speech given by former White House official Van Jones at the Take Back the American Dream conference, Adele Stan from the left-leaning blog AlterNet also prompted calls and e-mails to the ombudsman.

About two dozen e-mails slammed the June 18 column by Milbank, accusing him of mischaracterizing Jones’s remarks and taking them out of context.

I read Milbank’s column and watched Jones’s 36-minute speech. The e-mailers are correct that Jones didn’t criticize the Occupy Wall Street movement — he praised it. Whom he really went after was the coalition of liberals who elected Barack Obama in 2008 and then went to sleep for 2010.

But a close read of Milbank’s column shows no disagreement with Jones. Yes, Milbank leads with Occupy, and the headline (not written by Milbank) seems to indicate that the piece is about the Occupy Wall Street movement. But the column, as I read it, is about the weakness collectively of the left.

Early in the column, Milbank refers to his “surveying the demoralized state of the left,” as in the Left writ large, not just Occupy. And toward the end of the column, he writes this:

Jones, in his speech to the conferees, pleaded with the activists to be as “courageous and determined” as the Occupy movement was, but he needled the left for being soft, comparing today’s activists unfavorably with those of the civil rights era. “They were beaten fighting for change. Some went to jail fighting for change. Some were murdered,” he said. “We’ll quit over a really mean tweet.”

That sounds to me like an accurate recounting of what Jones said — praise for the courage of the Occupy movement and regrets for the more mainstream coalition of liberals who elected Obama but then sat on their hands.

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